Sudan: Darfur: Rape as a weapon of war: sexual violence and its consequences

July 18, 2004

Sudan: Darfur: Rape as a weapon of war: sexual violence and its consequences

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While the priority of the international community is, rightly, to save the lives of more than a million IDPs in Darfur and more than 170,000 Sudanese refugees in Chad, Amnesty International is of the opinion that humanitarian aid will not succeed in containing the crisis unless civilians, including women and girls, in Darfur and at the border in Chad are given adequate and effective protection. In some cases IDPs in Darfur have refused to accept food and non-food aid items, because they said that would make them the target of further attacks by government-sponsored militia. Moreover, the majority of IDPs live in spontaneous camps and settlements around the cities or large villages of Darfur, where they continue to be the target of attacks, killings, rapes and harassment by the Janjawid whose presence is reported in the cities or at the periphery of the IDP camps. One person who lived for three months as an IDP in the town of Mukjar in Darfur, before moving on to Khartoum said: "it is not a camp, it is a prison". The delivery of aid to IDPs in Darfur must be accompanied by robust measures to protect civilians, so as not to increase the vulnerability they already experience as a result of their displacement, and should in particular seek actively to reduce discrimination against women, not to reinforce its effects or to intensify existing stigma and discrimination.

The Sudanese government has not only failed in its duty to protect civilians, it has also actively violated its legal obligations to protect civilians. Amnesty International repeats the calls it has made to the Sudanese government to immediately stop all attacks against civilians; to cease all support to and disarm the Janjawid militia and put them in a position where they can no longer attack the civilian population; to provide unfettered access to all humanitarian organisations; to allow human rights monitors and human rights organisations into the region; and to allow independent investigations of the massive human rights violations committed by members of the Janjawid militia and of its own armed forces and bring to justice all those suspected to be responsible.

At present, there is no political solution in sight to the conflict in Darfur other than a fragile ceasefire which has been violated on a number of occasions since its signing on 8 April 2004 in N'djamena in Chad. While an African Union (AU) ceasefire monitoring force, supported by the international community, is established in Darfur(9), its mandate does not explicitly include the protection of civilians. On 6 July, The African Union announced the deployment in Darfur of a protection force; this force will be mandated to protect the ceasefire monitors, not the civilians displaced by the conflict. Independent human rights monitors are needed immediately in the region to contribute to verify and to report publicly on violence against civilians. The monitoring team must include people with gender expertise and their mandate must include the monitoring of violence against women. Furthermore the international community must put in place effective mechanisms to assist women affected by the violence and measures to reverse the destruction of the social fabric of communities in Darfur.

Most of the Janjawid are now reportedly incorporated into the Popular Defence Forces, a government paramilitary force, and the Sudanese army. Amnesty International is receiving increasing information that the Janjawid are occupying some of the villages whose population has been forcibly displaced. One issue of urgent and crucial importance is the need to ensure the voluntary return of all refugees and internally displaced persons to their land and villages in conditions of safety, dignity, sustainability and respect for their human rights. Farmers have already missed the planting season this year, which means that the whole region will be dependent on humanitarian assistance for its survival for at least another year. It is clear that the international community will need committed, long-term and sustained engagement in the region, in order to reverse the course of another massive displacement on the African continent.

2. Background

2.1 Taking up arms in Sudan